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# validating volition

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I think "could have been otherwise" is the essential difference of volitional action. All existents have identity and have to act accordingly. The identity of volitional organisms is such that its actions could have been otherwise. The actions are caused by the organisms choice to act.

Plasmatic:

The law of causality according to Objectivism holds that single valued action is a logical consequence of the law of identity.

If all existents have identity and yet volitional organisms are an exception to the single valued action law of causation, does not this mean that the "single valuedness" of the law of causation is not in fact a logical consequence of the law of identity but instead an empirical observation of macroscopic non-volitional entities?

Alternatively, does the law of single valued causality being a logical consequence of the law of identity mean that "volitional systems", ones that actually can "choose otherwise" are somehow not subject to the law of identity?

Finally, does the law of single valued causality being a logical consequence of the law of the identity mean that in fact volitional organisms/systems, having identity cannot in fact "choose" otherwise?

I am extremely curious to hear your thoughts!

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There is no question that volition exists, we observe it. So any query would be to see if a given set of premises is consistent with that observation. Ok, lets start with the quotes that you see as claiming that the law of identity is "single valued". If I missed them, please point them out to me.

Edited by Plasmatic
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Please clarify if you mean D is correctly identified according to Objectivism, but is incorrect, or if you mean to say I have incorrectly identified the premises of Objectivism and D according to Objectivism is something actually something different.  Which is it?

I would submit D cannot be incorrect unless something in B or C is incorrect.

B is taken to be universal according to Objectivism, while C is according to Objectivism logically necessitated from/entailed in B.  Recall the law of causality according to Objectivism is SINGLE valued, and is claimed by Objectivism to be a corollary of the law of identity , merely the law of identity as applied to action.

You stated: "D.  The law of causation according to Objectivism is the law of identity applied to action, specifically, that an entity having a specific nature will act in only one way in a specific context."  And I said this was incorrect.  Humans can act in more than one way in a specific context.  They can focus (think) or not; they can act or not.  Neither alternative (or outcome as you put it), violates B or C.

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SL: I think your basic appraisal is accurate; volitional actions are either caused or uncaused and, while we have opposite approaches to it, we both see the same issue.

I don't accept anything as causeless, on principle; schrodinger's cat applies to random people as much as random particles. But I think you've equated causality with automation (eliminative materialism) and on that point I think grames' suggestion is highly apt.

I think strong emergence would be best exemplified by the many-body problem, in physics.

If volition is caused by the interactions of neural action, there's no reason to assume that it can be functionally understood in such terms.

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What does "could" mean in daily life? When we say that an old machine could work, or not, this only conveys a lack of information; it expresses contextual ignorance so as to minimize its cognitive distortion.

I think that this volitional "could" refers to a similar ignorance, of conditions which can't be predicted in advance WITHOUT OMNISCIENCE.

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On the many body problem: I suspect that, as neuroscience advances towards a physical explanation of the mind, we'll discover at some point a computational gap in which the mind cannot be understood in physical terms if any portion of the brain is omitted, and therefore cannot be mathematically modeled in physical terms at all.

Imagine trying to reconstruct the mental process of a single thought, with every action and reaction and feedback mechanism of a million neurons!

OR. . .

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Suppose someone could actually reconstruct such a working model, on the microscopic level, to show that the idea "A=A" is only the firing of thus-and-such clusters of neurons.

Would that make the concept into something other than what it always had been?

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Harrison said:

"I think that this volitional "could" refers to a similar ignorance, of conditions which can't be predicted in advance WITHOUT OMNISCIENCE. "

I don't know how to see the above as anything but a claim that volition is an illusion caused by ignorance.

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Humans can act in multiple ways in any situation; true. Also flowers can have multiple, even mutually exclusive colors, depending on WHICH ones you're referring to.

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To assert that anyone is capable of any physically possible action, at any given time, is to invalidate our justice system, all contracts, romantic love and the concept of "personality" in one fell swoop.

I defy you to consistently act on such a notion.

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Plasmatic: The difference being that this unknown variable is your own future state of mind and consequent decisions.

I could post this now, or not, depending on what I decide (which I cannot know before I've decided). Volitional "could" isn't an illusion because nobody can know their own thoughts prior to thinking them!

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Ignorance of volitional causes differs from all other ignorance because it's a necessary ignorance.

You can only ever analyze your own thoughts in retrospect and volitional "could" refers to what hasn't even been thought, yet.

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To clarify: Ignorance of one's future thoughts is not an essential distinction.

Volitional beings CAN focus on whatever they choose to; this choice resulting from their own deterministic reasoning.

I don't think anyone can ultimately "choose otherwise" because nobody can choose what they haven't chosen; that's a contradiction.

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Suppose someone is implicitly aware that their lover is being unfaithful and chooses to evade that knowledge. Why would they do that?

Well they implicitly understand that such knowledge would be painful and so they do so out of psycho-epistemological self-preservation, blanking out [all in a split-second] the consequences of that action, on the premise that "ideas don't matter".

So when we SAY they "could've chosen otherwise" what would that require? In order to face that realization they'd ultimately have to hold a different philosophy and really, in a sense, be someone else.

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So I do think that "could've chosen otherwise" is illusory, but I don't think that's actually what volition means.

Because if everyone's thoughts are determined by their ideas, context, etc, that doesn't equate to determinism; introspection allows us, as human beings, to deliberately alter our own ideas.

The entire feedback loop concept, altogether, couldn't even negate volition because (here's the relevance) nobody can know their own thoughts in advance.

Predictability can never actually be fully achieved for that reason.

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If you really wanted to say that's reducible to "I am controlled by my thoughts and ideas" then that would be an accurate summary. But I would say that you ARE what you think, which makes the whole thing a frustratingly elaborate way to say "you control yourself".

I really didn't think this was anything other than the compatibilism Rand referred to with "volition is another form of causality" but if it is then fine; let's call it "recursive self-causation" or whatever. Define terms.

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• 3 weeks later...

HD

I'd like to propose an integration to you which in some sense retains causation and volition.

It does require the a slight shift from rigid absolute determinism, i.e. (shift away from a causation which is on all scales single possible valued).

I first observe that empirically you have some reason to believe that certain systems behave in a deterministic manner while others behave in what I will refer to as probabilistic.

Before we get too far into this I would like to state that I have noticed what seems to me to be a "discomfort" in you regarding probabilistic processes.  Take no offense if my assessment of your mental or emotional or intuitive reactions are incorrect this is a forum of typed words which can be misinterpreted.  Reading between the lines though, I think you have a distaste for probabilistic processes, and/or you see them (hypothesis of their existence) as inconsistent with your observations of reality.  I humbly submit that you may be taking logical leaps with regard to the actual effects you would (possibly do) observe given the existence of probabilistic processes.

The universe would not be crazy or completely nonsensical or unpredictable if causation had a probabilistic element in it.  Probabilistic behaviour is not "anything goes"... when you shoot a polarized photon through a polarization film at 45 degrees, Hagel does not suddenly appear from nowhere.

Consider the following proposition:

For shorthand lets write single valued causation as follows C[x1, E1] -> (x2,E2)

Where causation occurs for entity x1 in a certain state (having certain attributes configuration speed etc.) and an environment E1 having a certain state (this could be the entire rest of reality).  The outcome is a single state for the entity x2 and a different state for the rest of reality E2.  In fact this could reduce to C[u1] -> [u2] where the U stands for all of reality the states of the entity in question and all the rest too.

Assume now that according to the nature of causality some probability was involved.  Assume also that the probability is constrained, i.e. a finite number of possible outcomes. Assume also that the particular possible outcomes are dictated by the nature of x and E and the particular interaction/action occurring.  C[x1,E1] -> p1(x2,E2), p2(x3,E3), p3(x4,E4)... pn(xn+1,En+1).

Where px are just probabilities of each possible outcome.

I wont write more on this now.  but the implications of what introducing "randomness" into a description of reality are encompassed by these kinds of multivalued causations.

Keeping in mind that if the outcomes are in accordance with the natures of the entities and if the probabilities are also in accordance with the natures of the entities, query just how "destructive" is this sort of thing to the way reality evolves the way we experience it, our knowledge and our capacity for volition, as against single valued determinism.

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• 2 months later...

Why?

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Randomness versus Determinism is a false choice.

Everything acts in accordance with its nature. There is no randomness. Even a dice roll lands where the gamblers action (& the properties of the enviroment) caused it to.

Everything that happens, including the Man-Made, is not part of God's pre-determined plan or "meant to be", in the universe-as-the-puppeteer sense. Determinism is bogus.

I haven't validated volition, though I know its valid. I just wanted to show that the alternatives are invalid.

Dearest HD, it's nice to see you still find value in this site.

Why?

Because?

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Theestevearnold:  I think I agree with you; insufficient data (and I've always found value here; I simply didn't anticipate having any spare time!!).

SL:  On what empirical basis would you like to adjust causality?

What does the alternative actually refer to?

After much time and mental effort I've come to the conclusion that since metaphysical chaos by definition can never be verified empirically, you must be referring to the awareness of your own actuative self-determination.

I've never disputed the fact that you control your own actions; only the baseless assertion that they are causally "multi-valued".

Is there any empirical evidence that my own actions are absolutely caused?  Yes, introspectively; they're caused by my own choices.

So does anything cause those choices?

Do any of my own thoughts and values have set causes, or are they halfway-arbitrary. . . ?

The evidence is once more introspective, and the word for it is psycho-epistemology.

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I act in accordance with my choices.

I always choose the "best" for myself, according to my own standards.

My standards of preference, in any given moment, are set by my implicit thoughts and feelings.

These implicit thoughts and feelings (my subconscious) represents the vast sum of mental habits I've formed throughout my own life.

The subconscious is what I believe "free will" should properly refer to; the fact that by everything you choose, you build your own soul.

But you don't sculpt yourself arbitrarily. . . unless you're oblivious to the process.  (See Behaviorism, Christianity, Marxism, etc)

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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"The subconscious is what I believe "free will" should properly refer to; the fact that by everything you choose, you build your own soul"

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Huh???? Sorry, with all due respect, I don't think you get it. Please reread all the previous posts to your original question. Perhaps I've misunderstood you, but are you suggesting that one's primary choice to focus is generated non-consciously?

Edited by Mshepard
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"The subconscious is what I believe "free will" should properly refer to

1. Animals have a subconscious.

2. Animals don't have free will.

If you agree that 1 and 2 are true, then your assertion is illogical.

If

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Actually the quote "The subconscious is what I believe 'free will' should properly refer to" was from Harrison's post; I was responding to it. Sorry, still trying to figure out the mechanics of replying to sections of previous postings.

It's absurd to equate "Free Will" or human volition in anyway with the subconscious because the basic choice to focus or not can never become automatized. One must always choose to exert the mental effort required to raise ones' level of awareness or not to so in the face of an alternative.

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"The awareness OF the fact that you build your own soul".

Animals do not have this.

And while the "choice to focus" is indeed the mechanism by which this is accomplished, why do you choose to focus?

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Also I equivocated "arbitrary" with reference to psycho-epistemology, at the end of that post.

What I meant was that the choices you make are not done metaphysically arbitrarily or causelessly (nothing is) but that failing to grasp the source of your own mental habits negates any possibility of intentionally altering them.

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If the "choice to focus" is the only choice which is free, i.e. the only instance of "free will", then instead of having to define/validate "free will" in terms of any choice we have but one kind of choice to investigate.

The issue of the "freeness" of the "willing" of that choice does not suddenly disappear.  Some will say even that choice is determined, while others that it is truly arbitrary/random.

No matter how "small" or "subtle" we try to define the choices which exhibit freewill, the fact is that we are still claiming freewill exists.  It still needs explanation and/or validation.

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Actually the quote "The subconscious is what I believe 'free will' should properly refer to" was from Harrison's post; I was responding to it. Sorry, still trying to figure out the mechanics of replying to sections of previous postings.

It's absurd to equate "Free Will" or human volition in anyway with the subconscious because the basic choice to focus or not can never become automatized. One must always choose to exert the mental effort required to raise ones' level of awareness or not to so in the face of an alternative.

I'm sorry I wrongly attributed that quote to you.

I agree with you, and it was well said.

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And while the "choice to focus" is indeed the mechanism by which this is accomplished, why do you choose to focus?

I don't know. That's an excellent question. It implies a type of Catch 22: the type of soul I build will determine whether or not I choose to focus, but in order to build the type of soul that chooses to focus, I must first choose to focus.

Since a paradox can't exist, my premises are flawed.

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